Miller calls pension benefits 'legalized extortion'
State Rep.-elect Chris Miller of Oakland points to news that just over 19,000 state retirees received pension benefits totaling nearly $2.4 billion in fiscal year 2018 as yet another example of how taxpayers are victimized in Illinois.
“Everybody in the state typically has an advocate except for taxpayers, and this example of what I consider to be legalized extortion of the taxpayer speaks to that,” Miller told the East Central Reporter. “Nowhere in the private sector would you ever see a retirement plan like what has been given to state workers.”
In all, Illinois Policy Institute reports, 19,158 retirees from the state’s six largest pension systems each pocketed benefits exceeding $100,000 and totaling in the billions overall in fiscal year 2018 after individually contributing just around $160,000 toward those packages over the lives of their careers.
Securing the most lucrative payouts for its members is the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), which paid out six-figure sums to almost 12,000 pensioners.
With Moody’s Investors Services pegging the state’s unfunded pension liability at $250 billion, or nearly double the amount officially reported by the state, Miller, who easily bested his Democratic opponent, Shirley Bell, with 60 percent of the vote in 110th District last month, thinks he knows why the numbers seem so out of whack.
“One of the biggest reasons why pensions are so underfunded is the people in them don’t have to fund them,” he said. “They don’t have to pay any income taxes on their retirement benefits and are making a 1,000 percent return on this investment.”
Miller said none of that is by happenstance.
“When this system was put in place it was a well-thought-out scheme among those who’ve created this whole mess,” he said. “They made it almost impossible to do anything about the system short of instituting a constitutional amendment.”
Now that Democrats are poised to take total control of Springfield, Miller said, the job of reforming the system just became more difficult.
“The first thing we have to do is educate the public through every vehicle we can,” he said. “The taxpayers have to get angry enough to contact their legislator and have them do something about all this.”
The 110th House District includes Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Edgar and Lawrence counties.